Michael Page needs a title fight to validate the hype

Michael 'Venom' Page

David Rickels vowed to take Michael “Venom” Page’s heart in front of his London countrymen at Bellator 200. Yet, when the smoke cleared, Rickels was the one succumbing to defeat at the hands of the British doppelganger of Anderson Silva.

Coming off an 18-month hiatus, Page opened up a gash over Rickels’ left eye, forcing a verbal submission at 0:43 of the second round.

So much for cage rust.

The Silva comparison likely elicited immediate eye rolls from longtime MMA fans.

Technically, Page’s kickboxing-based fighting style has always been more comparable to Stephen Thompson. The low hands, sideways striking stance and mystifying kicking techniques all mirror the UFC welterweight contender’s enigmatic abilities.

However, it’s his mannerisms inside the cage that draw the strongest correlation to arguably the greatest fighter that ever lived. The exuding confidence, Matrix-like striking defense and playful taunting hearken back to the days when Silva was the greatest one-man show on a fight card.

Page has walked a similar path in the prime of his career. All that stands in his way of a mere mention among the MMA greats, other than an inevitable run-in with a world-class Canadian destroyer in Rory MacDonald, is winning a world title and stringing together a slew of dominant title defenses against the division’s top contenders.

Bellator has spent nearly six years molding the once cocksure MMA newcomer into an undefeated diamond worthy of the spotlight treatment. It’s time to release the harness and let the MMA world finally see MVP fly.

Forget about potential fights against standout contenders like Douglas Lima and Andrey Koreshkov. Bellator has put too much time into building this hype train to see it derailed by anyone not wearing the welterweight title.

That only leaves a five-round championship fight with MacDonald, which should at long last reveal everything there is to know about Page.

Questions regarding his takedown and submission defense could all be tested by one of the longtime, elite fighters in the welterweight division. MacDonald has experience competing against some of the best fighters to ever put on a pair of four ounce gloves, including B.J. Penn, Tyron Woodley, Robbie Lawler, Demian Maia, Stephen Thompson, Carlos Condit and Nate Diaz.

Page may lack the same experience competing in marquee fights, but he is making up for it by dominating experienced opposition in ways that could only be recaptured in a video game.

Rickels is no easy out by any stretch of the imagination, and he still found himself stuck in the same web that has befuddled every other fighter that has stood in front of Page. Maybe takedowns from a world-class grappler like MacDonald can provide some answers to shutting down Page’s otherworldly striking. Maybe not.

There’s really only one way to find out.

“Once we sort out my contract with Bellator, then we’ll move forward onto those kind of fights (and) onto the world title fight,” Page told MMA Mania, when asked about competing for the title.

If Bellator was a bowl of popcorn, Page would be the buttery top layer that hooks and pulls audiences deeper into the bucket.

His fight was the most anticipated on Friday night’s card, despite serving as the co-main event to Gegard Mousasi and Rafael Carvalho’s middleweight championship headliner. No spectacle is more delectable right now than his undefeated run. Putting that 13-0 record to the test against MacDonald could help him transcend to the next level of superstardom.

And, if he’s fortunate, put him one step closer to validating those Silva comparisons.